Commerce Corridor

Ranson and Charles Town are adjacent small cities in Jefferson County, West Virginia, situated in the eastern panhandle within a 90 minute drive of Washington, D.C. Ranson has traditionally been the industrial epicenter of Jefferson County and the decline of America's manufacturing industry over the past decades has hit Ranson particularly hard - leaving many residents without jobs, seriously diminishing the city's local tax base, and leaving Ranson with significant brownfield properties that slow economic growth and lower residential and commercial property values. At least 15 brownfield properties impact the Corridor, which runs through the heart of the Ranson / Charles Town urban area, along the border between the two cities.

The Brownfields Commerce Corridor initiative was launched in 1999 and, in 2000, the cities of Charles Town / Ranson formed a Commerce Corridor Council of local, state, regional, federal government officials, community organizations and business partners to guide the project and seek resources for planning and implementation. Over the past 10 years, the corridor has been advanced by a number of city resolutions and inter-municipal agreements, as well as through consensus-building efforts with other partners organized primarily through the Council.
Commerce Corridor
Brownsfield Properties
The Commerce Corridor area consists of downtown neighborhoods in both Ranson and adjacent Charles Town, arrayed along a north south road corridor in Ranson and a perpendicular east to west railroad corridor that straddles the Ranson / Charles Town border. This area revolves around Ranson's main downtown street corridor, Fairfax Boulevard, running from an abandoned chemical / fertilizer plant to the north, south through downtown residences, shopping areas and idled brownfield properties crossing over the municipal border with Charles Town. At this point, a CSX railroad line located two blocks north of Charles Town's main street (Washington Street) intersects with Fairfax Boulevard. The Corridor then extends approximately tw0 blocks east and six blocks west along the railroad line through neighborhoods and brownfields in Charles Town. There are at least 15 significant brownfield properties arrayed along this 1.5 mile corridor, such as:
  • Kidde Brass Foundry - over 100 years old contaminated foundry recently acquired by Ranson for redevelopment as a mixed-use downtown center under LEED-ND standards
  • Miller Chemical / Fertilize - a large abandoned facility in Ranson that was recently subject to West Virginia state-led cleanup and Voluntary Remediation Program (VRP) participation
  • Maytag Spray Painting facility - an idled manufacturing facility in Ranson that has been redeveloped into the Ranson Civic Center
  • Charles Town Public Works and Landfill - an operating but obsolete and contaminated public works facility located adjacent to Evitts Run Creek
  • Viener Metal Salvage Yard - a former metal salvaging site currently under redevelopment as the American Public University's Academic Center, the largest privately-financed LEED building in the state
  • Peoples Supply Granary - an idled granary and pesticide sales center located in Charles Town; and Supertane Coal Tar CERCLIS site, a former gas manufacturing site in Charles Town, subject to EPA emergency removal action, and undergoing
Grants & Funding
In 2001, Ranson applied for and received the first of three EPA Hazardous Brownfields Assessment grants, with a second EPA grant in 2004 and a third grant in 2006. With EPA funding and the resources it leveraged, Ranson/Charles Town have made tremendous progress on our area-wide Commerce Corridor brownfields revitalization plan. This Corridor partnership has created an inventory of brownfield sites for priority action, conducted market feasibility and highest-and-best-use analyses, held community summits and forums, conducted assessments and remedial planning at 11 properties, and fostered redevelopment of the Viener metal salvage yard into American Public University’s new high-tech, LEED-designed, Academic Center.

More than 25 local, state and national organizations participate on the Council, which has been a linchpin of the area-wide planning process.

FOCUS West Virginia Grant
In 2009, the City of Ranson was fortunate enough to receive $5,000 through the FOCUS West Virginia Grant to address barriers to the redevelopment of Powhatan Place. This Powhatan Place Redevelopment Study was one of only fifteen projects selected in the Northern 33 Counties of West Virginia. The goal of this project was to evaluate the economic viability for redevelopment of the site and prepare a redevelopment plan that will enable the City to brief stakeholders and potential investors. Grant funds were used to explore and create a redevelopment plan for the property and determine the economic feasibility for the City to implement the concept plan. Grant funding helped offset the costs associated with this essential project located in the core of Old Town Ranson.

EPA Area Wide Brownsfield Planning Assistance Grant
In June 2010, the City of Ranson again partnered with the City of Charles Town and applied for a $175,000 EPA Area Wide Brownfields' Planning Assistance grant to continue the success of the Commerce Corridor. The community's ultimate goal is to create a more livable community in Old Town Ranson and Charles Town - a place where residents can live where they work, walk to shop, and have easy access to nature and recreation.

Development Plans
In order to lay the groundwork for this ambitious objective, Ranson purchased the former Kidde Brass Foundry site located in the Corridor from United Technologies Corporation (UTC) in 2009 after conducting All Appropriate Inquiries. Utilizing a significant donation from UTC, Ranson developed a vision for redeveloping this seven plus acres brownfield into a vibrant mixed-use, pedestrian- and environmentally-friendly LEED-ND certified development named Powhatan Place. Plans for Powhatan Place include 150 units of affordable and market rate housing, 30,000 square feet of commercial office space, 44,000 square feet of retail space, recreational spaces and community gardens. A major focus of an EPA Area-Wide Plan effort by Ranson will be to take the Powhatan Place vision to the next level by creating more detailed reuse plans and strategies.

Commercial Office Development
A second benefit of enhanced planning and strategies in the corridor will be the development of high-tech commercial office buildings in vacant areas between downtown Ranson and downtown Charles Town, building off the DC-Loudoun-MD technology corridor. Already, Ranson/Charles Town have taken a major step toward this goal with the redevelopment of the Viener scrapyard into the American Public University's Academic Center, the purchase of the Peoples Supply site by a commercial office redeveloper, and the pending purchase of two (2) other brownfield sites in Ranson by American Public University.

Recreational Development
A third focus of area-wide efforts will be the development of parks, recreational, greenway, and green infrastructure in the Corridor. Part of this major initiative would be incorporating the Charles Town dump and public works yard into an expanded Evitts Run Park, together with the adjacent Ranson Civic Center and Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson County located in former Maytag/Dixie-Narco manufacturing buildings. This Evitts Run Park effort is a top community priority of the NAACP of Jefferson County and other community groups. The Economic Development and Brownfields site to follow the progress the City of Ranson is making in its attempt to transform the community from a former industrial community to a more sustainable community for the 21st century.